|EDINBURG, March 31 - The Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute had hoped to raise $150,000 from its fundraiser in South Texas last week. In fact, it far exceeded expectations, raising $261,000 for its internship and fellowship programs.
U.S. Rep. Rubén Hinojosa, chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said the reason the CHCI's goal was easily reached is because of the "burning desire" of Latinos in South Texas to make sure their children get a quality education that leads to a great career, including seats in the boardrooms of the major corporations of America.
The CHCI is setting up a fellowship program for Latino college graduates to receive specialized training to prepare them to sit on the boards of Corporate America. The new program was announced at the fundraiser, which was held last Wednesday at the Edinburg Conference Center and attended by ten members of Congress.
“Our goal was to reach $150,000. The reason we exceeded it is because people realize our children have been so neglected in this region for the past 50 years,” Hinojosa told the Guardian. “This is an opportunity for us to give some scholarships and what we call fellowships so that our young people can come to Washington and have that experience that opens up their eyes to opportunities of better paying jobs and careers. That is why people gave more than what was requested.”
The CHCI was set up in 1978 by a small group of Hispanic members of Congress. The aim was to develop the next generation of Latino leaders with “a clear vision of a strong America made possible with the many contributions of educated and civic-minded Latino leaders engaged in and contributing to all aspects of U.S. society.” The group was founded on what the congressmen believed were three cornerstones for success: education attainment and college access, leadership development programs in D.C., and access to a powerful network of Latino leaders in the United States.
Hinojosa said CHCI has grown to become “the premier Hispanic non-profit and non-partisan 501(c)(3) leadership development organization in the country.”
Like the fundraising goal, the number of congressmen attending the gala exceeded expectations. Usually, five or six members of Congress attend CHCI fundraisers, Hinojosa said. “We had ten at the fundraiser and 12 in total on this trip. They came to show their support for South Texas to be participating and to be able to get our Latino students to be approved by the CHCI board of directors in Washington. They want more of our kids to have this incredible experience in D.C., of being able to access a powerful network of Latino leaders in the United States.”
The ten members of Congress to attend the fundraiser in Edinburg were Hinojosa, Eddie Bernice Johnson, Sheila Jackson Lee, Henry Cuellar, Filemon Vela, and Pete Gallego, all of Texas, Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico, and Tony Cardenas, Raul Ruiz, and Juan Vargas, all of California. Former members of Congress Kika de la Garza and Solomon Ortiz also attended, as did Esther Aguilera, president and CEO of CHCI. Also in attendance were Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp and UT-Pan American President Robert Nelsen. Octavio Saenz, who anchors the news for Univision and Fox in the Rio Grande Valley and is a 1991 CHCI Intern, hosted the event.
The CHCI internships and fellowships allow young Latino leaders to gain work experience in Washington, D.C., working for members of Congress and in federal agencies such as the Department of Education, Department of Energy and Department of Commerce.
Hinojosa said he is pleased to be chair of the CHC at a time when CHCI is expanding its programs. He said the fellowship to train young Hispanic leaders to take positions in the boardrooms of America is needed because of the growing economic clout of Hispanics.
Hispanic buying power is worth $1 trillion now and is expected to grow another 50 percent to $1.5 trillion in the next five years, according marketing analysis firm Nielsen. The firm says that the Hispanic consumer market is expected to particularly boost several economic sectors, including housing, food, retail, education, financial services, transportation, entertainment, and media.
“We are going to train those who are college graduates and go for a fellowship at the Department of Energy or the Department of Commerce or the Department of Education. These are very seasoned college graduates. We want to give them extra training so they can sit on the boards of directors of major corporations of Corporate America, like AT&T and IBM, Exxon Mobil and Marathon Oil,” Hinojosa said.
“We have to shoot high and raise the expectations of Corporate American because we have over $1 trillion that is being spent by the Latino community, making those corporations a lot of profit. Therefore, they should have representation on their boards. In order to get there we have to train the young men and women to be selected. It is going to happen.”
Another announcement made at the fundraiser was a plan to raise $15 million to build a new headquarters for CHCI in Washington, D.C. Hinojosa said that with leaders like McAllen businessman Alonzo Cantu involved, he was sure the funds could be raised.
“We have to raise the money to buy the building that is bigger than the one we have had the last 15 years. We have outgrown it,” Hinojosa said. “We need the new building because we are going to reach Corporate America, like Toyota, like Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, like Warren Buffett, all of the big companies that know the importance of education and opportunities like these that the CHCI gives our young Latino leaders.”